Scientists are a step closer to an effective treatment for Ebola after two drugs in a clinical trial were found to significantly boost survival rates, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) cofunding the research said on Monday.
The study began in November last year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), but its current phase has been halted and all future patients switched over to the treatments that have shown positive results, the NIH said in a statement.
REGN-EB3 and mAb114 “are the first drugs that, in a scientifically sound study, have clearly shown a significant diminution in mortality for people with Ebola virus disease,” NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said.
Patients who were receiving two other drugs that are being discontinued, Zmapp and remdesivir, have the option, at the discretion of their treating physician, to receive the treatments that have been shown to work.
Fauci said that the trial was designed to include 725 people, but was halted by an independent board when it had enrolled 681 people, because one of the drugs, REGN-EB3 by Regeneron, reached a critical threshold in success, while mAb114 was not far behind.
Data have so far been analyzed for 499 people from the cohort of 681.
In the group, mortality dropped to 29 percent with REGN-EB3 and with mAb114, it fell to 34 percent, said Fauci — compared with a rate of 60 to 67 percent in the general population when the disease is not treated by a drug.
The rates for Zmapp and remdesivir were 49 percent and 53 percent respectively.
REGN-EB3, mAb114 and Zmapp are monoclonal antibodies that bind to glycoprotein on the Ebola virus and neutralize its ability to infect other cells.
Fauci added that the final analysis of the data, including the patients not yet processed, would occur in late-September or early-October.
The NIH, the DR Congo health authorities and the WHO hailed the “extraordinary team of individuals who have worked under extremely difficult conditions to carry out this study,” as well as the patients and their families.
More than 1,800 people have died in the eastern region of the DR Congo since Ebola broke out there in August last year.
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